Judge gives AMA 2 weeks to justify silence on suit Rival group wants to review Sunbeam deal


November 04, 1998|By KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

CHICAGO -- A federal judge in Chicago gave the American Medical Association two weeks to come back with a list of reasons why its settlement with Sunbeam Corp. should be closed from review by another medical group.

For the time being, U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber's ruling yesterday keeps alive efforts by the Tucson, Ariz.-based Association of American Physicians & Surgeons' effort to get access to documents that were part of the Chicago-based AMA's legal dispute with Sunbeam.

The Association of American Physicians & Surgeons is best known for successfully suing President Clinton's task force on health care reform to discover who was on the task force -- led by Hillary Rodham Clinton -- and what kind of information was being gathered, in order to determine if any special interests were involved, the association's executive director, Jane Orient, said.

The Sunbeam affair has been an embarrassment to the AMA, which agreed over a year ago to endorse some products of the Delray Beach, Fla.-based appliance-maker, but later backed away in the face of harsh criticism from physicians and the media.

Sunbeam filed suit for breach of contract, and last summer the AMA agreed to pay $9.9 million to settle rather than go to court over the ill-fated deal. The court documents became secret as part of the settlement.

Within weeks of the settlement, the Association of American Physicians & Surgeons began what has become a lengthy and tedious process to gain access to depositions and hundreds of court documents between Sunbeam and the AMA when the two appeared to be headed for trial. The details of the deal have always been confidential, and it led to the dismissal of several AMA staff members, including former Executive Vice President P. John Seward.

The AMA's protective order, which in part said the physicians and surgeons group should show reasons why it should see the documents, was rescinded by Leinenweber for lack of cause.

Pub Date: 11/04/98

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